Had there been sunflowers in Galilee, Jesus may have referred to them in his Sermon on the Mount. Because its heliotropic trait causes the sunflower to continually adjust its head to its source of life, the sun, the sunflower is a model of man’s need for conversion by turning to God, his life-giving source.In conversation with Fr. Daniel Jones, a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, associate professor of theology, and director of graduate seminarians at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, the theme of conversion peppered his discussion of his personal life, his scholarly life, his role as formation director, and his priesthood. When asked how he shepherds future shepherds, he responds, “Fostering conversion. It is the most important thing about life and ministry—to help them open up to Christ, the only one who can really change them.”
Deacon David Fons, a fourth-year theologian, notes the fruit of Father Jones’ counsel, saying, “Father encourages my brother seminarians and me to be steadfast in our pursuit of priestly formation. He is a great witness to me of a prayerful priest who is dedicated to building up priestly fraternity, and he never tires in teaching and preaching the Faith.”
A native Detroiter, Father Jones grew up in a Catholic home with his parents, Donald (deceased) and Joan, and four sisters and one brother. At St. Genevieve Parish in Livonia, his roots in the Faith were nourished. Naturally, he expected he would follow a pattern of education, work, marriage, and children; however, at Catholic Central High School, he experienced a personal conversion that he describes with fresh joy, conviction, and gratitude.
At seventeen, Father Jones experienced a “deepening of faith” during a teachers and students prayer meeting. He was led to the knowledge that God is a friend and accepted the truth of the Gospel. He reasoned that if Christianity were not true, it should be abandoned, but if it were, it had to mean everything.
Convinced that Christianity was true, he gave his life to Christ and knew “he was going to live forever.” Later at a Detroit-wide function for teens, he experienced a “leave-everything-to-follow-him moment” and believed he was called to priesthood.
Fearful at first, he heard an interior voice promise, “Dan, if this is what you want, don’t think I will withhold grace.”
Making a perspicacious decision to delay entry to the seminary but further prepare for theological studies, he studied history and Greek at the University of Michigan. There, he became associated with the Servants of the Word, a lay brotherhood, and served in various apostolates in London and Brussels, Belgium, and as a junior high school teacher in Ypsilanti, where he earned Master of Arts degrees in education and English at Eastern Michigan University.
His priestly studies for the Archdiocese of Detroit began in Rome, where he received the STB from the Pontifical Gregorian University before his ordination. Afterwards, he continued study in Rome, where he earned the STL, Diploma and STD in theology and patristics from the Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum. The description for his book, Christus Sacerdos in the Preaching of St. Augustine: Christ and Christian Identity, asserts that the “study is notable for its attention to how Augustine’s Christology functions in his broader thought, especially his pastoral care.” It does seem that the hand of God has formed Father Jones as a formator of shepherds.
Auxiliary Bishop Michael J. Byrnes, former vice rector of Sacred Heart, testifies to Father Jones’s efficacious work: “Much of Father’s impact is of the hidden kind, but it is manifested most plainly in the lives and ministry of many young priests here in Detroit and other dioceses throughout the Midwest.” Father Jones describes the Sermon on the Mount as the Magna Carta for Christians. Commitment to following the Evangelical Counsels—being poor in spirit, chaste in heart, and obedient in love—motivates this priest who joyfully directs seminarians to confirm their own direction as they follow the Son, Christus Sacerdos.